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Flat World Tool – oDesk

July 23, 2011

Thomas Friedman became famous with this book/concept – “The World is Flat” in which he talks about how software engineers sitting in India can and beat the competition out of global companies like IBM etc. While at Infosys Consulting I have imbibed the philosophy of “Global Delivery Mechanism” – which talks about different teams across different parts of the world can collaborate to meet customer demands 24×7. Using the same philosophy DesiSauda had been working with offshore partners to build and operate our eCommerce platform.

With a startup that is internet based, providing an eCommerce platform and targeting bricks and motor clients I not only had to be nimble but also cost effective at the same time. This means that we had to either

1) Outsource our development activities to a third party in India

2) Start developing the platform ourselves

3) Hire people in US

4) Create a company overseas

Option 1 was impossible as we are racing at 100 MPH and we want to concentrate on developing the market, invest resources, our time in meeting merchants and getting deals. Also we lacked technical expertise to start building the platform now the aesthetic bent to create a better user experience

Option 2: Hire people here in US. We knew that hiring in US is very costly and given where we were we could not afford any full time salaried people. We experimented with a slight tweak – hiring interns from different schools and making them work. The issue with this is that these students will work part time and given the startup nature we expect our employees to have a steep learning curve

So pretty much the option of having developers in US or developing in US is cost prohibitive. The leaves the option of offshoring – to a partner whom you work with or setup a shop yourselves. For the first option there are very important guideline you have to follow

Option 3

1) Know the team very well as you would be spending most of your nights with this team.

2) Interview them – all outsourcing companies send a list of profile which one to interview. Do not be shy to say NO to a person

3) Coordinate coordinate coordinate: Managing a team back is very difficult. One has to constantly monitor the kind of work they are doing, develop per person very specific things that this customer can join the network, Working with Inda’s teem. What we have observed was that the india team does not think of out the box. In my experience offshore teams are afrdn of taking initiatives and come out of the box

Alternate Plans

Start a company overseas:  Starting a company in India involves setting up the office etc, legal, employee relations etc. You need to have a dedicated team for this option and in the long run might turn out to be the best option

Apart from the 4 options listed I came across another option where one can hire people on demand for specific skills for a particular project. oDesk is a market place where buyers like me go looking for a specific project (skills) with a duration and where suppliers (programmers and companies) come together. In one specific case I was looking for someone to integrate my website with Facebook & Twitter and I was able to get the resource in a very short time frame and get the work done. It is amazing to see how the market forces work here – I post a job and different people bid for the work, I then can review each of the candidate’s profile, their past work and get the work started. I have seen people apply for jobs from Philippines, Pakistan, India, US & all over the world.

Given the highly flexible proposition there are obviously some drawbacks to this option – people who you hire are not accountable to you as these are consultants. I hired a guy to do some animation with a turn around time of 72 hours, pre-paid. 72 hours passed with no deliverables and because of this i had to miss an important deadline. Obviously i am trying to get the money back here and oDesk support is very great in this regard. Lot of people claim to have done lots of work and there is no way to validate applicant’s credentials. Again in this matter one can take a look at the ratings of the consultant and what others have done, certifications/exams that the consultant has passed and so on and so forth. The last drawback to me is the fact that I scratch your back and you scratch my back setup – I have to rate the consultants I have hired and in turn the consultants hire the employer. I have seen that consultants beg you to give them higher ratings and based on whatever you give it to the consultants they provide the same to the employer.

On the whole with whatever limitations there might be on the offering I firmly believe that this is one of the great tools that made global delivery model possible and easier.  This is what I call as Flat World

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